Pacific could face food shortage by 2030

Monday, 16 September, 2013

Among the many problems that will affect the world’s ability to feed its growing population, climate change is one that could have negative effects sooner rather than later.

Researchers from the University of Wollongong say that Pacific Island communities could face food shortages due to dwindling fish stocks by as early as 2030.

Inshore fisheries are central to the rural economies and food supply of Pacific Island countries, supplying daily protein and serving as one of the few sources of cash for villagers and coastal people. These fisheries are crucial elements in filling the shortfall in fish supply predicted to confront many Pacific nations in the coming decades.

“Recent studies have indicated that 75% of Pacific Island coastal fisheries will not meet food security needs by 2030, and climate change is likely to exacerbate this problem,” said Dr Quentin Hanich, Fisheries Governance Program Leader at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS).

“It is critical that coastal communities can effectively manage and sustainably develop their fisheries in a region where fish provide 40% to 90% of animal protein for coastal communities and are a key resource for food security, livelihoods, revenue and development.”

ANCORS is a key partner in an international project to improve coastal fisheries management in the Pacific region. The four-year, $3.8 million project brings together national agencies, international bodies and expertise from ANCORS to attack this major problem in the Pacific region. The project is funded by AusAID through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Dr Hanich said that although it is improbable that inshore catches would increase significantly, their continued decline would have severe consequences for food security and social stability.

“No other production sector can fill the shortfall in supply in the medium term so securing a sustainable supply of fish from nearshore fisheries is crucial,” Dr Hanich said.

The project will focus on Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and will work with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to scale out the research findings to other countries in the region. The project seeks to transform nearshore fisheries governance and builds on ANCORS’ multidisciplinary research and policy expertise.

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